Parkland - Hundreds bowed their heads in reverence Sunday as they slowly filed past a memorial meant to honor four Lakewood police officers who were gunned down last year.
The crowd walked in between four gaps in the low cement wall which signify the holes that the deaths left in the law enforcement community.
Some could only stare with a mixture of tearful gratitude into the faces of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Greg Richards, Tina Griswold and Ronald Owens that have been etched in marble.
Others snapped pictures of the memorial, wall and four flagpoles that now stand in front of the Forza coffee shop where the officers were killed last Nov. 29 while preparing for their shifts over cups of joe.
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On Sunday, the memorial was dedicated and the community gathered once again to mourn and remember the fallen heroes.
“This marks a spot of tremendous loss and the community needs to remember that loss,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor. “What was lost were four lives who believed in duty, honor and sacrifice. (The memorial) not only honors those people but also those values.”
More than an hour before the dedication ceremony started, people packed into the coffee shop or waited in the rain as an honor guard practiced raising the flags.
A new street sign at the corner of Steele Street South and 116th Street South proclaims it “Officers Memorial Drive.”
Brad Carpenter, founder and chief executive officer of Forza, said the idea for a memorial arose an hour after the shooting and morphed into a community project. Fundraisers were held and dozens of volunteers worked together to erect the memorial.
“This will be a dedication to four brave officers who gave everything they had to our community,” Carpenter said.
The retaining wall is topped with blue tiles representing the thin blue line. Engraved on the side of the memorial are the words “We are a grateful state.” Behind the landscaped memorial are four flagpoles.
After Carpenter and Pastor spoke of the ultimate sacrifice made by the officers and the importance of remembering what the officers stood for, an honor guard raised the flags of the United States, Washington state, the Lakewood Police Department and Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
Sara Kispert, a barista who was working the morning that the officers were shot to death, helped in the procession by handing over the American flag.
Lakewood Assistant Police Chief Michael Zaro said it helps to know there is a permanent place for people to come pay their respects to the fallen officers.
“It’s knowing the generations that come after us will remember their names and faces and what they gave,” he said after the ceremony.
In honor of last year’s fatal ambush, the coffee shop is closed today from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Families of the fallen officers are expected to gather inside Forza at 8:14 a.m. – the time that the shootings occurred one year ago.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653 firstname.lastname@example.org